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Contributing to Sahel food security through sustainable water bird management

By Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
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FAO and the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM) will work together in a new partnership to improve the state of natural resources in the wetlands of Africa's Sahel region, in particular the sustainable management of migratory water birds which are crucial for food security for the local populations.

The agreement signed today between FAO and FFEM, which co-funds one third of the 5 million euros project, is specifically targeting the four main wetland areas in the Sahel region which are distributed between Chad, Egypt, Mali, Senegal and Sudan.

The "Strengthening expertise in Sub -Saharan Africa on birds and their rational use for communities and their environment" (RESSOURCE) project will focus on wetlands situated in the Senegal River Valley, Inner Niger Delta, Lake Chad and the lower and middle reaches of the Nile. These are ecosystem sites of critical importance where the food security and livelihoods of nearly a billion people depend on agriculture, livestock and natural resource use, including fishing and bird hunting.

Many water bird species, including Garganey and Ruff spend the winter in the Sahel wetlands before returning to breed in Europe. Since 1960, the number of water birds in the area has declined by about 40 percent - a dramatic fall that possibly relates to three main factors: the shrinking of flood plain size due to drainage, reduced rainfall and other climate change related events; changing plant biodiversity, including the introduction of invasive species; and, unsustainable hunting.

The project will be conducted in cooperation with the Governments of the countries concerned and other key technical partners such as France's National Agency for Wildlife and Hunting Management (ONCFS), the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) and the Secretariat of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds.

FAO, FFEM and the other project partners will promote sustainable management of migratory water birds through bird census and surveying and monitoring techniques, and capacity building activities. The results will support the creation or adaptation of a legal and regulatory framework, and foster policies aimed at sustainable hunting and enhanced bird conservation. These policies will be integrated with broader wetlands site management.

"This project is about improving management of wetlands, water birds and their habitats. It will eventually benefit local populations and for the first time we will work at the regional level mobilising multi-stakeholders partnerships" said Francois Xavier Duporge, General Secretary of FFEM.

Promoting food security and economic development

The work to improve water bird management including the protection of natural habitats, aims to benefit both the ecosystems and local communities that rely on them for food and other resources, including income.

In Chad and Senegal, for example local business people organise hunting on the wetlands sites - activities which, if managed sustainably, can continue to bring benefits to the local economy.

"Our goal is to adapt water bird hunting by promoting sustainable hunting management and bird conservation policies which will benefit those local communities who rely on birds for their livelihoods. In many Sahelian wetlands, hunting is crucial to local food security and the economy," said Eva Muller, Director of FAO's Forestry Policy and Resources Division.

FAO will be responsible for implementation and coordination of the project in close collaboration with all its technical partners as well as FFEM.